Monday, April 9, 2007

Commentary - The message or the messenger?

The 9/11 truth movement has had a a major public airing following a celebrity endorsement from Rosie O'Donnell. Gaining mainstream publicity is one thing, to gain publicity when a celebrity does a verbal data dump to approximately 3.1 million daytime TV viewers is another. The fallout, as should be expected, was swift. The 9/11 truth movement followers tell us that Rosie's statements are proof that the the idea of a massive conspiracy involving the 9/11 attacks is now a mainstream idea as evidenced by her statements. The 9/11 conspiracy skeptics tell us that science debunks all of the 9/11 truth movements theories, and that O'Donnell is just an unfunny, ignorant, overweight lesbian who should be ignored.

Personal attacks are nothing new in this arena. When you prescribe to an "out in left field" idea it should be expected that scorn will follow you. In the case of O'Donnell's comments we see more than an attack against her beliefs, we see an attack against her based on personal feelings. I'll admit that I am not a fan of Rosie O'Donnell and have never watched her TV shows, personally, I find her grating. But, I think that is part of her shtick as a performer. It's a part of her delivery method as an entertainer, much like a shock jock or a blue comedian.

It's interesting to me that the debunkers, who pride themselves on their logic and adherence to science and scientific methodology would include the personal insults that are being used in debunking her statements. It's not necessary and in the long run I don't think it helps their cause. It makes O'Donnell a sympathetic individual because the attacks are so personal and so specific. Does her sexuality, weight or physical attractiveness have anything to do with the belief that 9/11 was an inside job? No. Does her pushy vocal style have anything to do with the belief that the government planned and executed the 9/11 attacks? No. Does her profession have anything to do with the belief that the NIST report on the collapse of the buildings is wrong? Well, yes, there is a connection there but the rebuttal by referencing her profession is a straw man argument. Following the argument that a non-scientist's opinion is worthless in regards to the report findings is no different than dismissing the typical registered voter's opinion if they are not a political science major.

I'm not a believer in the 9/11 truth movement. There are aspects of the 9/11 attacks which raise red flags with me but many of the pillars that the followers of the movement stand on don't jibe with me. I don't believe explosives were in Towers 1 and 2. I don't believe that a directed energy beam was used. I don't believe that thermite was used to bring down Towers 1 and 2. But there is more than enough evidence that key government officials ignored warnings and many were guilty of dereliction of duty. NORAD's response on that morning was nothing short of criminal. Trade Center 7's collapse is too convenient and unexplainable based on the reasons given for it's destruction. But I won't join the movement because of those irregularities. The tone of the attacks against O'Donnell are not surprising and they are not a sign that the 9/11 truth movement is based on scientific fallacies. The tone of the attacks is a sign that even those who pride themselves on their adherence to scientific standards are not above confusing the messenger with the message.

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